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Not all classrooms have four walls… is your setting Spring ready?

May 18, 2023
4 minute read

Spring has sprung… but has your team sprung into action? Over the winter months, although we are keen to keep our outdoor learning environment engaging and inviting, there are probably less children wanting to spend an extended amount of time out there. However, the days are now getting warmer and sunnier, and you are probably finding more children in your setting being drawn outside. So it is likely then, that your staff are spending more time in your outdoor provision too, but do they understand their role out there?

It is easy for staff to fall into the habit of being ‘on duty’, like looking after children in a school playground, rather than drawing on learning opportunities.

So how do we support our staff to do this?

Team Meetings

During your weekly catch up with your team, discuss your outdoor provision long term plans and come up with a list of prompts for each area, which your staff can use to extend children’s learning. The same can be done with any enhanced resources that are going to be used. This is a great way to get your team involved with the planning and sharing the children’s individual interests and needs.

Prompts will vary according to your provision, the age of your children and their individual needs and abilities.

For example, the adult could narrate the actions the child is taking; this would help a child with their communication skills. Or for another child there may be some key open questions that could be asked to provoke thought.

Perhaps you could pre-record some children playing outside to help your team to think of some possibilities or look through recent photos you have taken outside.

Key Person Groups

When possible, have a catch-up with each of your members of staff to discuss the children that they are a Key Person for. Discuss the developmental needs of each child and how they can support those needs both in the indoor and outdoor provision. These can then be shared at a team meeting so that other adults know how they can support these children too.

Focus Weeks

Give your staff an Area of Learning to focus on for a week. Challenge them to find ways to bring that area of learning into child-led play as many times as possible throughout the week, make a note of it and then share their experiences at the next team meeting. It will help staff to see the outdoor area as a learning environment just like the indoor area is. Perhaps the winner of the challenge could even win a box of chocolates!


As a busy leader it is often difficult to spend extended periods of time in provision, but it is a good idea to plan for this time. Why not enjoy some sunshine (hopefully) and some fresh air by going outside too and modelling the types of interaction you hope your staff will also do. Work alongside your team and explain why you are asking certain questions or how you are extending learning. Observe your team out there and give immediate advice on how they can extend learning during an activity. Ask them ‘what learning is happening here?’. It will hopefully encourage your staff to think and act on what the children are doing.

Children behave and play differently outside than they do inside, so practitioners need to respond by teaching and interacting with them differently too. However, the early years curriculum remains the same and if children in your setting are spending a large part of their day outside, then it is key that they are experiencing high-quality learning and teaching opportunities outside too.

How do you maximise the potential of your staff and children in your outdoor learning environment? We’d love you to share your thoughts. Hopefully some lovely sunshine is coming our way soon, check out our blog Staying Safe In High Temperatures to make sure you are prepared.

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